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Risk Analysis

Pandemic in Public Venues and Events

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) have reported that four more people who arrived on a Qantas flight from LA to Sydney have tested positive for Human Swine Flu (known as Influenza A H1N1). Australia now has a confirmed record of 50 cases of Human Swine Flu, with the figures doubling in the past week.This total includes the positive test results of two children on board the Pacific Dawn cruise ship that has just arrived in Sydney. It is reported that during this outbreak: 130 other passengers were quarantined; the remaining 1800 disembarking passengers were asked to stay at home or in their hotels for up to seven days; and the ship eventually set sail 7 hours late with a whole new crew.The likelihood of an infectious disease shutting down your business may seem improbable. However, as seen in the recent reports there is the strong potential for businesses to have serious OHS and business continuity implications from such outbreaks.

During the initial Human Swine Flu out-break in Mexico, the Mexican government banned public events, issued advisories against gatherings across the country and closed schools nationwide. This move would have left the Venue Managers scrambling to reschedule and reorganize their events.

If Australia were to experience a Human Swine Flu Pandemic this could trigger the same cancellation of major public events and major public gatherings. The possibility of such measures was foreshadowed in last Saturday's SMH.

Risks to the events and venues industries from pandemics, other natural disasters or medical incidents should all be included in the organization's emergency management, crisis management and business continuity plans. An established and well communicated plan will prepare a venue to minimize disruption and resume business as early as possible.

Victorian Bushfires Highlights Emergency Services Duty of Care

As the Victorian Government announces a Royal Commission into the bushfires that have devastated large areas across Victoria, a 2006 NSW Workcover prosecution of that state’s police handling of the Redfern riots, serves as a reminder of the level of care expected under OH&S laws for emergency services in hazardous environments.  In that case, of the 217 police that attended the disturbance, 42 police sustained injuries ranging from psychological trauma to various levels of musculoskeletal injury. The Industrial Court of NSW found that the NSW Police Service had failed in its duty of care to make the workplace that they controlled, safe and without risk.  This is undoubtedly a difficult condition to achieve during civil disorder but still a responsibility under OH&S laws.  The Court found that the risk of injury (not just resulting from injuries but the risk of injury), was great.  It found that the personal protective equipment provided to some police was inadequate and the level of training provided in use of that equipment varied and was in some cases insufficient.  The Court did not however find an absence of relevant policies and procedures for dealing with civil disturbances but rather that those policies and procedures were in some cases inadequate. The Service was fined $100,000 for its breach.

While the proposed Royal Commission in Victoria will undoubtedly look at all relevant preventative and preparedness measures taken by emergency services relating to the Victorian bushfires, given that this natural disaster is unprecedented in Australia’s history, it has stretched many of the human resources available to emergency services across the state.  It will be with interest we watch the response of the Victorian Worksafe Authority in the disaster’s aftermath, given the precedent that was set from the Redfern riots in NSW.

Safety Risk Culture

A positive safety culture leads to both improved health, safety and event risk outcomes. Studies have identified nine broad staff behaviours (referred to as culture actions) as vital to the development of a positive safety culture. As a consequence, safety competency is characterised as an ability to undertake the nine identified culture actions as part of the effective completion of relevant safety and risk management tasks. The culture actions that foster strong safety culture should be demonstrated by senior managers and the Executive.  These include:

1. Communicating your organisation’s values 2. Demonstrating leadership 3. Clarifying required and expected behaviours amongst staff as it relates to risk and safety 4. Personalise safety outcomes so that people see the human cost 5. Developing positive safety attitudes so it is seen as adding value rather than as a burden 6. Engaging and owning safety responsibilities and accountabilities and linking to performance management 7. Increasing hazard/risk awareness and preventive behaviours 8. Improving team member’s understanding and effective implementation of safety management systems 9. Monitor, review and reflect on personal effectiveness of senior managers

Without leading by example and walking the talk, safety and risk management will not get embedded into normal business.